We are the Hartmans
The making of "We are the Hartmans"
Director Laura Newman, screenwriter Peter Brash and
producer Cielito Pascual share their experiences of the filming.
A Changing Economy Makes for Good Comedy
Richard Chamberlain is Hartman, the owner of Hartman’s Rock Club
and when he is stricken with heart problems, his family comes
to town to sell the club and get the money. They are soon
surprised to find a rebellion by the townspeople (drag queens,
drunks and strange musicians) who come to the club and
they are not ready to let that happen.
This is not the Richard Chamberlain that we thought we knew.
He not only acts as Hartman, he is Hartman and this is one
of his best comedic performances. While the film is basically
a comedy,it has lots of heart and is sensitive and tender.
As you laugh, you realize that the film has a great deal
to say about how the little businesses are being eaten up by
big chain stores and we are losing some of the great places
that were part of growing up. Hartmans was a small pub with
unique clients and the last of the small business in the town.
It is also at Hartmans that people feel welcome and at home
so it was only natural that they would come together to
save the club.
Beneath the silliness, this is a sweet film and aside
from Chamberlain, the cast is made up of unknowns who do
a wonderful job of showing us how people can get together and
work for something they care about. This is really a film
about the little guy who is willing to stand up for what he
believes in and here the entire cast represents the little guy.
Laura Newman is the brains behind this film; she wrote and
directed it and should be very proud of her work here.
However, she could not have done it alone and we never
lose sight that the film is a group effort that totally charms us.
It subtly deals with a strong message that is always timely
and that makes us realize how much our lives have changed
since big businesses have taken over so much of what we
once loved. I could not help but be reminded of the “Occupy”
movement and how people are now coming to the realization
that we indeed do have a voice in what is happening today.
Here we have Jordan (Ben Curtis); a worker at Hartman’s
who takes on the leadership of saving the club. He manages
to get the community to join him and we get an idea of what
went on with the “Occupy” people as they took things into
their own hands. As can be expected, the leadership becomes
disorganized especially when marijuana, sex and romance
enter the picture but the film never forgets where it is
heading. As we watch, we understand that we are not just
laughing at what we see on the screen but at the entire situation
that is sweeping this country and at ourselves. If we cannot
laugh at ourselves, then the world becomes a very sad
and bitter place.
© 2012 Amos Lassen
Review by Film Threat
Die-hard fans of actor Richard Chamberlain know that
his filmography is varied, extensive and continuous, to say
the least. Perhaps best known as Pilot-Major John Blackthorne
in the TV-miniseries, “Shogun” (1980) or the ambiguous
Father Ralph in “The Thorn Birds” (1983),
the 77-year-old actor has played some of the most memorable and
controversial roles in the history of theatre, television and cinema.
Therefore, it may or may not come as a great surprise when the
still stunning, outrageously talented Chamberlain plays the
moribund, very-often-stoned, owner of a small town, Rock Club
hangout called Hartmans.
The genius behind “We Are the Hartmans” is a young writer/director
named Laura Newman (“Sexy Clown Bitch”). Living and working
in New York City, Newman is also a singer/composer, and a
prominent member of an activist performance group called
“Reverend Billy’s Church of Earthalujah,” formerly known as,
“The Church of Stop Shopping.” Newman says that she
specializes in writing for comedy, but viewers will decide whether
“We Are the Hartmans” fits in that category, or somewhere else.
Club Hartman, is located in a rural community, that could
pretty much be anywhere. The economy has not been kind
to the town-residents, and Walmart-type stores (here called
Big Box) have gradually devoured all of the old Mom and Pop’s,
and every other landmark-fixture that define the local folk,
and provide them balance and structure. Hartman (Chamberlain)
is an old hippie who has lived in the town all his life. A free spirit,
Hartman’s radical lifestyle eventually catches up with him, and his
wife and daughters leave him early on. Years later, Hartman explains
to one of his estranged daughters that he built the club for his
children, so they’d have somewhere fun to go, when they
Newman’s invented community, of which Club Hartman is the center,
is teeming with the most delicious eccentrics imaginable. The
scruffy-bearded, weirdly attired Hartman can almost be seen as
the Mayor who keeps the local clan structured and whole
(not an easy task). When the film opens, Hartman is attempting
to organize a benefit for his dying club, so that bills can continue to
be paid, and so that he can ward off the ever-encroaching Big Box
that threatens to leave him and his clientele homeless. Hartman
and Company’s method of attack is to bring back a homey-rock-star-
made-good, named Baxter (Jonah Spear), to spearhead (no pun
intended) a benefit concert. It is at this precise moment that
Hartman becomes gravely ill, and the others must take over
and make his dream tangible.
What’s interesting about Newman’s film is that it’s a total
collaboration. Yes, the legendary Richard Chamberlain is the soul
of the town, and his acting has never been better, but his co-actors
are likewise superb, and no character is more important than another.
In the interview with Newman and Chamberlain to follow this review,
both explain that the screenplay is also a collaboration—
as is the film’s unique method of distribution. Further enticing,
is Newman and Company’s subtle approach to a very political
message that is both timeless and presently relevant.
“We Are the Hartmans” is a very important powerhouse
that will shock you back to life. Clad in eye-watering comedy,
it is a film that no one can afford to miss. Luckily, tickets
are moderately priced— even in this trying economy— and
Newman’s theatre-venues are unusually inviting. Oh, and look
for an amazing cameo of Laura Newman in the film. I’d tell you
where to find her, but I wouldn’t want to give too much away.
© 2011 Film Threat
My Interview of Richard Chamberlain
....In We are the Hartmans, Chamberlain plays the hippie owner of a local
night spot that is one of the last small businesses in a town that has become
overrun by big chain stores. When he is hospitalized, his family comes to town
and plan to sell the place, but the regulars band together to try and stop
this sale, as Hartmans has become a symbol of the last place in town where
they feel welcome.
Chamberlain mentioned that he was attracted to the role because he usually
doesn't get to "play scruffy". The clean cut actor welcomed the change
of pace and loved the idea of getting to play a "Willie Nelson-type" character.
It was certainly quite a contrast to see the actor in person and see such a
major transformation on screen.
I asked the actor about how the film seems to have relevance to greed
and the current political climate. He was very excited about the idea
of a film that stood up for the little guy, because in this world of big
business corporate dominance, "it is so hard to be small". He mentioned
how even in the film industry it is difficult to get people excited
about working on small projects, because the first consideration is
usually determining the profitability of the idea.
"On smaller films, people are more enthusiastic," Chamberlain said.
He contrasted this with bigger budget films, where things are often
chaotic and more about getting the job done. He mentioned that
it's exciting to be on projects where people care more about the
material. He also appears in the indie film The Perfect Family,
which recently debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival.
However, Chamberlain isn't limiting his options. "Big, medium,
small," Chamberlain said in response to what type of films he looks
for these days. The 77 year old actor (who hasn't lost his matinee idol
looks) still has an infectious enthusiasm for his craft and looks
to be continuing his career for a long, long time. Maybe we'll even
see him again in Atlanta in the coming years.
© 2011 Larry McGillicuddy
We are the Hartmans
The influx of big chain stores in the modern economic environment has
made it very difficult for small businesses to survive. While not all of
these mega retail locations are evil, there's no denying the charm of
a local small store or hangout that makes you feel at home.
The overly silly, but somewhat satisfying film We are the Hartmans
touches on these themes.
Hartmans is a small local pub and music venue that caters to people
that don't always feel welcome. It is the last of the small businesses
in their town and the one place that still makes them feel at home.
When the owner (Richard Chamberlain) gets sick, his family comes
to town and makes plans to sell the place. The Hartmans regulars
band together to fight the sale.
There's a lot of silliness to be had in here and some of it reaches
sitcom levels. However, this is a film that has its heart in the right place.
The cast of unknowns works well with verteran actor Richard Chamberlain,
who is surprisingly convincing in a role very different from what he
usually plays. There's a sweet romance between Hartman's daughter
and one of the locals. Ultimately, the film gets across the message of
standing up for the little guy in the face of corporate greed and
does so in an entertaining fashion.
© 2011 Larry McGillicuddy
We Are the Hartmans' Review
Laura's a bit psychic.
I'll let you be the judge though. Two years ago, Laura Newman began
writing a comedic film entitled We are the Hartman's, which debuted at
the 2011 CMJ Film Festival on Thursday.
The plot follows Jordan, played by Ben Curtis, an employee at Hartman's
Club, as he goes on a journey to save the club owned by Mr. Hartman,
played by Richard Chamberlain. The story progresses to reveal relationships
between Hartman's family and town members as they all react to his terminal
illness, the financial pressures of keeping the Hartman club open, rebellion
against corporate America and big-chain superstores, and an occupation,
(that's right an OCCUPATION), in order to revive the pulse of
Throw a bit of pot, nudity, humor and disorganized leadership, and
We are the Hartman's smells faintly of Zuccotti Park and the other
Occupy movements across the nation. "It shows that we are on the
heartbeat of what's going on," Newman, modestly explained at a
CMJ Q&A after the screening.
Newman co-wrote the film with Peter J. Brash, an Emmy-award winning
writer. The project started as a community project, where many of the
actors created their own characters and cooperatively worked on creating
a script that is reflective of one of the current American struggles.
We are the Hartmans' shows the pull between the town members
who have been influenced by Hartman and his club, and his estranged
family members. "There's this struggle between these two groups...
the people in the club rise up to keep the club alive, because if the
clubcloses the town dies," he explains.
The 'occupation' parallel became apparent when Curtis's character,
an Afghanistan war veteran, pulls a knife out on the local police
officer and Mr. Hartman's pregnant daughter-- runs into the club
with Diana, played by Jennifer Restivo, his love interest and
Mr. Hartman's other daughter, and calls an occupation to
prevent the club from closing. That night happens to be LGBT
fantasy football night at the club, and everyone else is there too,
including hippies, rockstars, and pastors. With so many personalities
in house, the characters find it hard to come to any decision when
they are asked to list their demands-- the crowd suggests
large amount of moneys and a private jet, but they just
end up ordering pizza.
Hmph. Anti-climatic, kind of like the Occupy movement thus far,
which hasn't yielded any results. But the movie is better than that;
it takes us on a joy ride from start to finish, pinked with great acting,
witty writing and topics that the 99% can relate too. Much of the movies
feel-good appeal comes from the cast's harmonic synergy, rocking
soundtrack, and organic characters. "We all have a lot of love,"
the main character said. "Love and belief in yourself, along
with integrity and commitment is how you get things done."
The movie debuted this year at the Atlanta Film Festival's Gala
Presentation, and will go on a Rock Tour entitled the
"The Hartmans Rock New York Tour" in Brooklyn and
Manhattan, starting Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Hiro Ballroom.
© 2011 Attiyya Anthony Huffington Post
Activist/Filmmaker Anticipated Occupy Wall Street Fervor
with Indie Comedy WE ARE THE HARTMANS
Director Laura Newman Corrals a Community of Red Necks,
Punk Rockers and Drag Queens Together With Richard Chamberlain
in “the battle to save the last small town rock 'n roll club”.
Film Begins Eight Week Run in NYC Music Clubs November 2, 2011.
Laura Newman was working as a barista at a Starbucks in Manhattan
when she had her first political awakening. She’d just met the
performance artist and activist Reverend Billy while studying theater
and film at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. What she learned from the
Rev about the coffee behemoth prompted her to rip off her apron,
quit her job and don a choir robe to perform with his Church of Stop
Shopping Gospel Choir. Eleven years (and one arrest) later, she’s
taken all she’s learned from him and fashioned an independent feature
comedy that’s clearly anticipated the spirit of Occupy Wall Street
long before protest signs began sprouting up in Zucotti Park.
We Are the Hartmans, starring Richard Chamberlain, starts an
eight week run at various music clubs in New York City beginning
at Hiro Ballroom on November 2 (8:00PM).
“The timing between the Hartmans release and the Occupy Wall Street
movement is remarkable considering that we wrote the script two years
ago,” says Newman. “Both are about diverse groups coming together
to protest the corporate takeover of their lives. Both are about people
seizing a symbolic place. Our protagonist, Jordan (played by “Dell Dude”
Ben Curtis) works at the town’s only rock club, Hartmans, which is facing
foreclosure. In an effort to save the place and his job, he declares
‘This is an occupation!’ and leads a motley crew of patrons to
barricade themselves inside while the police amass outside."
Chamberlain plays Hartman, the pot-smoking hippie owner of the local
hangout in a town overrun by big box chain stores. When Hartman falls ill,
his estranged family swoops into town set on selling the property to a
fast food franchise--only to find themselves embroiled in a neighborhood
uprising. Newman’s flair for the outrageous attracted Chamberlain who is
known for his work playing 60’s TV heartthrob Dr. Kildare and Father Ralph
in The Thorn Birds. “I thought it was a great script and that it would be a
blast to play a Willie Nelson type of character,” explained the actor.
Newman’s association with the activist vanguard led her to co-produce and
shoot scenes on Josh Fox’s documentary Gasland which was nominated for
the Academy Award and helped spawn a massive anti-gas-drilling movement.
“Film is one of the most powerful forms effecting culture and politics right
now," says Newman. "I think people want to see films that address the
serious concerns of their lives, but they also want to laugh and walk away
with hope.“ Gothamist calls Hartmans 'a comedy parable for our gentrified
age' while Huffington Post describes the film as "a joy ride
from start to finish".
Hartmans also stars Jennifer Restivo and features a soundtrack with
songs from Freelance Whales and Iron and Wine. The script was penned
by Newman and Emmy-award winner Peter J. Brash. Filming took place
in Manhattan, Peekskill, East Hampton, New York and in Jersey City,
New Jersey. The film held its world premiere as a Gala Presentation
at this year’s Atlanta Film Festival and is an official selection at
the CMJ 2011 Music Marathon and Film Festival.
© 2011 We are the Hartmans
Laura Newman, Director: We Are The Hartmans
We Are The Hartmans is the story of a small town rallying in support
of their local dive - a bar called Hartman's that has featured heavily in
everyone's lives. The owner of the bar is a legend in the town, but he
cannot pay the bills. When a health condition puts him in the hospital,
his estranged daughters show up, hoping to sell the bar to pay his
medical bills. Hartman's eldest - Diana, slowly recovers her small-town
family values and has second thoughts about selling out. The filmmakers
eschewed traditional distribution methods and are currently screening
the filmin local bars around New York City. Director Laura Newman took
some time out to answer some questions about We Are The Hartmans:
Digital Hippos: The message in the film is strong. Can you tell me about
the origin of the story? Is it drawn from personal, small-town experiences?
Laura Newman: Much of the film is made up of personal experiences
from my life, mixed with ideas from my co-writer Peter Brash and many
of the actors in the film. The politics of the film come from my experience
as an activist working for 11 years with Reverend Billy and the Church
of Stop Shopping. On our tours, I've seen local main streets across
the country shuttered - all their local stores put out of business by a
new Wal-Mart or super mall. While I did not grow up in a small town,
I decided to set the story there, because I felt the stakes were higher
than in the city where a local store closing may be sad, but there are
plenty left to go to. In a small town, when you lose your hardware
store to Home Depot or the local general store to Wal-Mart, there is
no other option; you must shop at the big chains. These
"Big-Box-Mart" stores, as we call them in the film, kill towns
economically and culturally. The country is quickly being
homogenized to the point where there isn't much difference
between Carson City and Toledo.
Even in New York City where I live, many historical districts like
Astor Place have been taken over by K-mart, Starbucks, Kinkos and
McDonalds. I chose a rock club for the setting because I'm a musician
and I saw how upset my community was when CBGBs shut down
in New York City and was turned into a clothing store. A rock club
seemed like the perfect place to bring together a group of diverse
people who are trying to survive in this new economy. The stakes
are high, because if the club closes, the town will die,
losing all its culture.
DH: What was the financing like for the film? Did you have any major
challenges during the production?
LN: Financing came from private investors and an IndieGoGo
campaign we did on line. The IndieGoGo campaign went really well.
We were able to raise $14,000 of a $12,000 goal in 4 weeks.
This gave us some confidence to know that our social media and
fan base were strong. The major challenge we experienced came
later when we had spent almost all of our money on the making
of the film and didn't anticipate the amount of money we would
need to distribute it. Now that we are doing a DIY release,
the biggest challenge is a lack of funds to execute a distribution
at a scope I envision. We are relying mostly on volunteers and
luckily, much of the cast and crew have been helping a lot. I would
recommend to anyone budgeting for a low budget indie to set aside
half the money they raise for distribution and film festivals. There is
a great bookabout this called "Think Outside the Box Office" that
I alwaysrecommend to filmmakers.
DH: We Are the Hartmans has a cast of relative unknowns AND
Richard Chamberlain. Was he your first choice for Mr. Hartman,
and how did he become involved?
LN: Richard Chamberlain came to us via casting director Eve Battaglia.
She has a great reputation and helped us find Mr. Hartman, Morgan
and Diana. I think Chamberlains's manager was looking for him
to do some material outside the box, and more film roles too.
They read the script and loved it. I was amazed he wanted to work
with such a group of "unknowns" but he said it sounded "like
an adventure". We had a wonderful time working together,
and he is such anincredible presence.
DH: I loved the leads Ben Curtis and Jennifer Restivo. What was the
casting and rehearsal process for the film?
LN: Ben and I have been friends for a long time. We went to NYU together.
I've always considered him to be one of the greatest actors I know
and wanted him to work on this. He came into the process pretty
early and created his character Jordan. Jennifer was cast three
weeks before principle photography started by casting director
Eve Battaglia. She was actually the last person to come in after
two large rounds of auditions so we were really relieved when
she walked in the room and blew us all away. In a touch of fate,
Ben and Jennifer actually fell in love during filming, and one
year later are still together. I think it's a true sign that
their chemistry in the film is very real!
DH: The music in the film is great, and I love the idea of screening
it in bars and clubs. What has been the response to this unique
LN: The music is probably the most defining element of the film.
I wrote many scenes to songs I had in mind. Then, later during
editing, we decided to have a total rock score, no film
compositions. Many of my favorite bands have music in the film,
including Iron & Wine and the Freelance Whales. During a benefit
to raise money for the film, a NYC rock band - Black Taxi,
played a set and I became totally obsessed with them. At first,
I asked them just to perform one song in the film but as we
were editing, we kept adding more and more of their music
to the score until we were up to 8 songs. As for the rock club
screenings, we've done three so far, and they work really well.
I think it creates a unique atmosphere for the audience, watching
the film in a place similar to where the film is actually set.
Plus, we can easily have bands from the soundtrack play
after the screenings. The response by our audiences has been
really positive, especially when they've been drinking, which
always helps a comedy! We do struggle a bit to have our
audiences take the film seriously as a piece of cinema since
we are not showing it in a movie house. For audiences that
show up, they seem pleasantly surprised by the quality of
the film, but I think some people see the bar setting as a sign
that the it's not a "real" film, and it may deter them.
Ultimately, I feel that this is the best strategy for us and makes
viewing the film unique and memorable. Plus, it's much less
financially risky for our producers as we are splitting the door
rather than paying huge fees upfront for theater rentals.
We may be one of the only films in NYC making money theatrically
right now, as most indies lose money on NYC theatrical runs.
DH: What can we expect from you next?
LN: I'm working on a few projects. One is a reality TV show about
sex education for adults that Producer Blayne Ross and I have been
creating for a few years. I also have some music videos and
education video projects that I'm currently working on. As for
my next feature, I have two scripts finished, and I hope to
get one of them off the ground soon. This film took 2 years
from inception to the premiere, so it will be a little while
before we are back on the big screen.
© 2011 Julia Mann Digital Hippos